Participation in a mindfulness retreat gives us an opportunity to step away from the usual demands and activities of our everyday life, and to look into the nature of our experience through practising mindfulness in a safe, supported environment. Research indicates that practising mindfulness more intensively in a retreat setting has a different impact than daily practice at home (Goleman and Davidson, 2017).
On retreat, we have the opportunity to develop greater sensitivity to and insight into our moment-by-moment experience. We do this through the formal practices of sitting, walking and movement meditation, and through the informal activities of the retreat day alongside others.
Meditation retreats generally include periods of silence. Silence offers us greater space to be with our experience directly, letting go of the need to talk and frame our experience through language. Within the space of silence, and away from the usual demands and distractions of our everyday lives, we can begin to see more clearly the activity of the mind and how we can helpfully work with it.
This experiential learning of coming to know the mind from the inside – and gaining confidence in working helpfully with it – promotes well-being and is considered central in mindfulness teaching. In fact, mindfulness-based teachers are required to attend an annual residential mindfulness meditation retreat, as part of the UK Network’s Good Practice Guidelines for teaching mindfulness-based courses.
Mindfulness Network retreats
Through the training and experience of our retreat leads and our close links with the universities, our retreats are informed by the most up-to-date thinking about how to apply and integrate understandings from ancient contemplative traditions and modern scientific theories about well-being and the mind.
The Mindfulness Network is particularly focused on offering retreats that are accessible to people of any and no religious belief. This is a developing area and, with others, we are leading the way in looking into the question of how best to do this. We are exploring this with: senior mindfulness trainers from across Exeter, Bangor and Oxford Universities; the NHS; and senior teachers from the contemplative traditions as well as seeking feedback from participants of our retreats.
Our retreats are particularly focused on deepening and extending the learning available from mindfulness as it is presented in its most universal expression; our programmes are tailored for those who have completed MBSR and MBCT or similar mindfulness programme, and for teachers of mindfulness based programmes.
In general, our retreats include meditation instruction, talks and guided sessions of mindfulness meditation practice including mindful movement. They provide a safe and nourishing environment for the cultivation of a deep and grounded mindfulness meditation practice.